Hi guys! This is my second author interview on this blog and it is with Julie Mayhew, author of ‘The Big Lie’, of which I did a review last week. ‘The Big Lie’ has recently been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2016, so I am honoured to have Julie here on the blog. So, without further ado, here is the interview:
Daniel: Hi Julie, thank you very much for doing this interview for How To Read Books.
Julie: Thank you for your brilliant The Big Lie review. You’re the first blogger to call Jessika’s dad a “douche”. Good work.
D: To those who haven’t yet read ‘The Big Lie’, can you sum the book up in six words?
J: Revolutionary Nazi alt-history with girls centre-stage (hope I wasn’t cheating using hyphenated words)
D: The idea of family and loyalty is a huge thing in ‘The Big Lie’. How much would you say you valued these things in your life?
J: Hugely valued. I’m a mother and I’m also, of course, a daughter so I’m infinitely interested in how your opinion of parenting and family changes and is challenged when you become a parent yourself. I think this comes across in my books and plays.
D: How happy were you with the ending of ‘The Big Lie’, without giving anything away?
J: It was absolutely what I wanted – something honest and not ‘Hollywood’. The most powerful revolution that can happen is in the mind of the individual, that’s what I wanted to say and I really feel the ending reflects that. I know it might not be what most readers are expecting…
D: Why did you want to deal with the issues of oppression and sexuality?
J: I didn’t set out to write a book about sexuality – but it became clear very early on in the writing process that Jessika’s desires were going to be the catalyst for her seeing the world differently. What I did know from the outset was that I wanted to use the history of Nazi oppression to make us better understand our own present-day failings.
D: Did you have to do a lot of research for ‘The Big Lie’ and what made you write a book about Nazism and oppression?
J: Yes, lots of research, which fuelled the writing process. I would take a real thing from the past and shape it to fit my imagined Nazi Britain. I spent a great deal of time in the Wiener Library in London which has a vast collection of Nazi school texts, song sheets, year books, etc. From those I learnt how children were made to believe in Nazi ideals, subtly and not-so subtly, from a young age.
D: Which character was the most interesting to write and why?
J: I enjoyed writing Clementine, observing her from afar, making her a mysterious figure but also a powerful one. But Jessika was the most interesting – finding her voice, getting inside of someone who believes different things to you and seeing her shift and change.
D: Are you an avid reader and what kind of books do you like to read?
J: I think it’s essential to be big reader to be a good writer. I recently read Lucia Berlin’s short story collection A Manual For Cleaning Women – it’s astoundingly brilliant. It makes me want to up my game.
D: Which character in ‘The Big Lie’ would you say you were most like in terms of personality?
J: I’d like to think I am a rebellious Clementine figure, but I so often want to be seen as good and please people, which is more of a Jessika personality. My aim in life is to be more Clementine.
D: What would your advice to anyone writing a YA novel, especially one linked with history?
J: Do your research, but then let it go. You need to write a story that means something with characters you are curious to unpack, not just show off all the facts you’ve found out.
D: Finally, have you got any upcoming projects in the world of YA coming up in 2016?
J: I have. I’m writing a book set in Russia which explores our ideas of what home means. My main character missed out on her childhood and is searching for a way to get it back.
D: Thank you for doing this interview and congratulations on ‘The Big Lie’ being nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2016.
J: Thank you! I’m thrilled with the book’s support – particularly the readers that have contacted me to say it’s made them engage with the politics that affect them. The revolution starts here…
Thanks for reading this interview guys, I hope you enjoyed it. The next author interview will be with Lisa Drakeford, author of ‘The Baby’, later this week or early next week. A huge thanks to Julie for agreeing to do this interview. If you have not read ‘The Big Lie’ or ‘Red Ink’ yet, I suggest you do so. As always, please leave comments below and like this post if you like it.
P.S. Sorry for the spacing. WordPress is not a happy bunny today.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday was music themed, but I was really struggling to come up with anything, so I hope you all don’t mind that I’m just doing this random one on books I DNF’d. These are in no particular order.
Blurb via Goodreads: ‘I photographed the moment of my husband’s death…’ So begins HOLD STILL, a nerve-twisting thriller from bestselling author Tim Adler. How much do we really know about those we love? Kate is visiting Albania with her husband Paul, a much needed break from Paul’s stressful website business. ‘Hold still,’ says Kate, taking a picture as Paul steps onto the hotel room balcony. ‘We’ll always be together,’ Paul responds. Suddenly there is screaming below and a blaring car horn. Kate stares down from the balcony at the broken body of her husband lying lifeless in the street. Overcome with grief, Kate can’t accept the truth of Paul’s tragic death, and replays the incident over and over again, searching her pictures for a vital clue to what really happened. When she meets the enigmatic Priest at a grief support group, they journey together into a dangerous world of violence and secrets as Kate realises what Paul really meant when he said he would never leave her…
I received a free review copy of this book from Urbane Publications in exchange for an honest review. I had never read a Tim Adler novel before this one and have never really dabbled in the genre of thriller, except reading books such as ‘Along Came A Spider’ by James Patterson. Although this was a generally new reading experience for me I enjoyed it nonetheless.
I found that it was a very slick read and I was able to get through thick chunks of the book in one sitting, mainly due to the fact that I was never bored. I felt that the start was a bit slow, but I think that was a purposeful move so that the story built up, which it did very successfully. Like Kate, I found myself questioning everyone and everything. I also found the end chapter cliff-hangers, which were constant throughout the book, extremely gripping and shocking. There were definitely a few sharp intakes of breath while I was reading this.
However, I found that the sex scenes in the book were not only unnecessary at times, but a little crass and unpleasant. I know this book, being a crime thriller, was meant to be a bit gritty in tone and description, but the descriptions were a little too blunt and juvenile at times.
There was also the inclusion of a homosexual Muslim. I have never read a book with this specific twist in it, or even the inclusion of the religion/homosexuality clash. At first I liked how Tim had put it in there. However, it eventually became clear that it wasn’t going anywhere and I was left wondering why he had included it in the first place. Originally, Tim went with alternating points of view for the first few chapters and I feel as if he should have continued with it to maintain a more refreshing pace throughout.
It also seemed to me that there were two different halves in the book, even though there was no legitimate partition. The first half was the build up and looking for clues to the mystery and then the second half was the climax and all the action. I must say that I much preferred the first half, because I enjoy watching the story weave together. The second half was by no means an unpleasant read, especially with all the plot twists and heart-pounding action that occurs, but was not as good as the first. Normally in a book I can tell whether the characters are going to make it out alive, but in this I was seriously concerned for Kate and Priest and basically everyone. I would seriously consider picking this book up when it comes out if I were you. I think Tim has turned me over to the thriller genre and I will definitely endeavour to read his other works.
Blurb via Amazon: freida and isabel have been best friends their whole lives. Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions – wives to wealthy and powerful men. The alternative – life as a concubine – is too horrible to contemplate. But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to be perfect mounts. isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty – her only asset – in peril. And then into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride. freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known…
My friend recommended this to me about a year ago and I just never got around to reading it. Then I began to read it earlier this week and to begin with I was intrigued. I was intrigued, but I was slightly confused as to what all the fuss was about. And then about sixty pages in I found myself crying in the middle of my English lesson. My friend who recommended the book to me happened to be sitting next to me at the time. She saw me crying and literally gave me an ‘I told you so’ look. I guess I asked for that. The fact that this was one of the best books I’ve ever read hit me like a ton of bricks. I was wrong to ever doubt you O’Neill.
I think that one of the best things about this book has to be the level of detail included. For example, all the names of the eves are the names of models, like cara and naomi (Cara Delevigne and Naomi Campbell) and the names of the Inheritants are the names of academics, like Darwin and Albert (Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein). Just this in itself says something about the society we live in. Right from the start, Louise is making us think about the world we live in. Another detail is the non-capitalisation of the eves names. This is obviously a statement of how they are not viewed as having value in the society they live in. I just eat this level of world-building and detail up in books.
The story had a good pace to it, the constant element of competition always keeping my interest and making me want to get to the end. The end, by the way is soul destroying and I literally stared at the last word of the book for ten minutes before going to sleep feeling like I was empty. This book deals with so many issues: drug abuse, domestic violence, discrimination of women, social stimulus. The idea of social stimulus has to be one of the most poignant things about this book, mainly because it is just an extreme version of what we are subjected to in our everyday lives now. I think the success of a dystopian novel is mostly valued on how scarily close it is to our own society. Multiple times throughout the book I actually had to put it down and assess the meaning of life and how terrible things are. It made me want to stop pretending that everything was okay, because newsflash: IT ISN’T. The societal pressures that the eves feel in their society are not that different to the ones people, particularly women feel in our society. This is so, so scary to me.
Most of the characters in this book I could not stand, but I think this was purposeful. Everyone seemed fake, especially megan (barf). I took this to be another statement from Louise about the materialism of our world. freida herself made me want to smash my head into a wall multiple times while reading. Her decisions were completely irrational to me and different to the ones I would have made. I had to keep reminding myself that she was probably only acting like this, because she did not know any different. She was manufactured to believe that women had to be a certain way. The fact that she was brainwashed is not her fault. I did not trust Darwin or any of the Inheritants from the start. The whole time I thought that he was too Prince Charming for the setting of the book and I was right. Just like the eves, Darwin was just out for the gratification of someone else, his father.
‘Only Ever Yours’ by Louise O’Neill is a poignant and harrowing story that will chew you up, spit you out and make you see the world in a different way (I mean that in the most positive way possible). This story will stay with me forever and probably influence the decisions I make for the rest of my life. Of course I am awarding this book 5/5 stars.
Blurb via Amazon: The Lux series continues with the third installment of this riveting paranormal YA series. No one is like Daemon Black. When he set out to prove his feelings for me, he wasn’t fooling around. Doubting him isn’t something I’ll do again, and now that we’ve made it through the rough patches, well…There’s a lot of spontaneous combustion going on. But even he can’t protect his family from the danger of trying to free those they love. After everything, I’m no longer the same Katy. I’m different…And I’m not sure what that will mean in the end. When each step we take in discovering the truth puts us in the path of the secret organization responsible for torturing and testing hybrids, the more I realize there is no end to what I’m capable. The death of someone close still lingers, help comes from the most unlikely source, and friends will become the deadliest of enemies, but we won’t turn back. Even if the outcome will shatter our worlds forever. Together we’re stronger…and they know it.
I did enjoy this book just as much as the other two, but I would have definitely liked more progression when it came to the plot. In terms of character development there was a lot. Actually, I would go as far to say that there was more character development in this book than in any others I have read in a while if I’m honest.
This is the third book in a five book series and usually at this point there tends to be a dip in quality. This is a shame but it is a truth that needs to be realized. However, I feel as if Jennifer L Armentrout has skipped the trend and managed to produce a series at a constant quality at all times. But like I said, I would have much preffered if there was at least a little exceeding of quality.
In terms of major plot events there was not a lot, unless you think about the events in the last quarter of the book, where things really spiced up a bit. For basically the whole book they were just trying to get Dawson’s girlfriend back.
My favourite aspect of this book has once again been Katy and Daemon. There relationship is primed and ready with that sense of passion all the time. There is so much sexual tension in this book and at times it was embarrassing to read in public. And then there was that creepy bit with Blake that made me cringe and feel sick. That was a really good plot twist Jenmjfer.
I am going to award 4/5 stars to ‘Opal’ by Jennifer L Armentrout. I am excited to read the next book, because I feel ,Ike this book was building up to something in the future.
I did not like the look of some of the Thurdsday memes, so I decided to create my own. I’m just going to do a different list to do with my TBR each week. Like most book bloggers and even normal readers, my TBR is overflowing with book I want to read and must read. However, I also have books on my TBR that I will probably never read. Here is my top ten in no particular order.
‘The It Girl’ by Katy Birchall
‘Vanishing Girls’ by Lauren Oliver
‘Messenger of Fear’ by Michael Grant
‘The Hate List’ by Jennifer Brown
‘Just One Day’ by Gayle Forman
‘Everneath’ by Brodi Ashton
‘Rebel Belle’ by Rachel Hawkins
‘The Potion Diaries’ by Amy Alward
‘Running Girl’ by Simon Mason
‘Tyme’s End’ by B. R. Collins
I hope you enjoyed this meme and please feel free to use it, bu always link back to this blog. Thanks!
Blurb via Amazon: When Olivia opens the bathroom door, the last thing she expects to see is her best friend Nicola giving birth on the floor, and to say Nicola is surprised is an understatement. She’s not ready to be a mum, and she needs Olivia’s help. But Olivia has her own problems, specifically her bullying boyfriend, Jonty, and keeping an eye on younger sister Alice. And then there’s Nicola’s friend Ben, who’s struggling with secrets of his own.
I first heard of this book when I attended the YALC event. My first thoughts when seeing this book was that it would all take place over the course of one party, which made sense when I looked at the length of the book. However, I was wrong. This book takes place over the course of five months. Each month follows a different character that is named on the front cover.
Relationships in books, when they are not done correctly or are manhandled too much end up forced or just make me cringe. There was nothing like that in this book. All the characters fitted well together and worked within the story like a well oiled machine. One relationship that I especially liked was Jonty and Olivia. Obviously I’m not saying I like them as a couple, but instead the way that Lisa handled the issue of controlling relationships and domestic abuse. I thought she was very good at describing how it felt to be the abuser and the abused. Along with this, she successfully provided us readers with an explanation as to why Olivia said nothing and also the emotional reasons behind Jonty’s abuse.
I felt that I connected on some emotional level with each of the characters, whether I despised them or empathised with them, it was intense either way. I like to have this kind of emotion when I read a book, because it makes me feel as if I am completely immersed in the story.
I especially empathised with Ben and how her was treated at secondary school for his homosexuality. I personally can vouch that the comments made by the fictional characters about his sexuality do indeed reflect the reactions that people genuinely have in real life. This is unfortunate, but we must do what Ben did and be the bigger person and walk away. Blatant inclusion of LGBT+ issues, especially in young adult literature, is very important for the advancement of LGBT+ rights and general acceptance within society. I’ve read a lot of books that have included LGBT+ issues and characters, in fact I can no longer count them. However, a lot of these books brush over the subjects as if they are ticking it of a mandatory checklist. This book is one of the best ones for including these issues. On a lighter note, the romance was cute. Really cute.
At the end of this book there is a massive plot twist. Well, it would have been massive had I not seen it coming from a mile off. I am certain that some people out there didn’t see it coming, but there were a few too blatant clues for my liking. Also, I think that after reading so many books, I am very skeptical of any red herrings, so am spoiling the story for myself to be honest.
‘The Baby’ by Lisa Drakeford was a light and pleasurable read, but at the same time it deals with some heavy issues in a very compassionate manner. This book receives 4/5 stars from me!
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is all about Valentine’s Day. For people who are like me and will be spending the day alone, as if it were any other, here are ten books to help you ignore that fact. These are in no particular order.
‘Undone’ by Cat Clarke
‘Looking For Alaska’ by John Green
‘The Big Lie’ by Julie Mayhew
‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak
‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ by Jay Asher
‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky
Blurb via Amazon: A shocking story of rebellion and revelation set in a contemporary Nazi England.
Jessika Keller is a good girl: she obeys her father, does her best to impress Herr Fisher at the Bund Deutscher Mädel meetings and is set to be a world champion ice skater. Her neighbour Clementine is not so submissive.
Outspoken and radical, Clem is delectably dangerous and rebellious. And the regime has noticed. Jess cannot keep both her perfect life and her dearest friend. But which can she live without?
THE BIG LIE is a thought-provoking and beautifully told story that explores ideas of loyalty, sexuality and protest.
I’m going to be honest with you guys and admit that I did not like this book at all when I started it. The tone and pace was unusual and I was left completely confused. I really did not want to continue with this. But then I kept seeing reviews on line that said this book deserved an award. So I stuck with it. And I was so, so glad that I did.
After I had got used to the pace of Jessika’s voice, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found it incredibly hard hitting, tackling issues such as terrorism, oppression and sexuality. Although I am an advocate for LGBT+ within the world of YA, I have never really read a book focused around lesbians. I don’t know if that was a coincidence or if it is a subject that doesn’t feature prominently in YA literature.
One of the most poignant aspects to this book is the idea of loyalty and how it feels when a thing like that is broken. Within this story, this is true about Jessika’s loyalty to the Greater German Reich, as well as her family. Her family was the hard part for me. Jessika’s father came across as a huge douche to me. I know that is not an official term or anything, but that truly is my opinion. There was a part when Jessika was being taken away and, even though her family did nothing to stop it, she said that she couldn’t deny that she loved them. This really hit me in the heart with a sledgehammer.
If I had to pick one word to describe this book, I would choose harrowing. Although there was a shaky start, I can definitely say that this story will stay with me for a long time and I will probably end up picking it up again somewhere down the line. There are so many unanswered questions, but yet I do not want a sequel. I don’t think I could cope with putting myself through that.
Sorry this is such a short review, but hey, it’s Monday! I give 4/5 stars to ‘The Big Lie’ by Julie Mayhew.